Monday, May 29, 2006

If it's Monday it must be....

… another holiday. It’s silly season here in the UK. Around this time of year, especially if Easter falls late, we get more holidays than you can shake a stick at. This year, starting with Good Friday, we have now had four Bank Holidays in the space of just seven weeks. Now we will have to wait another three months for the next one. It seems crazy that we get so many close together then, through what should be the best three months of the year weatherwise, we get none at all. I was surprised to learn that the full extent of this madness was in fact only created relatively recently. In 1971 today’s holiday, which originally celebrated Whitsun, was fixed as the last Monday in May after a trial that had started in 1967. Prior to that the holiday had respected the official Whitsun and therefore floated as Easter does. In some years it could land as late as the 14th June. This year’s holiday just happens to coincide with Whitsun. At the same time the August Bank Holiday was moved from the 1st Monday to the last Monday. Then, in 1978, the madness was complete when a new Bank Holiday was added and set as the 1st Monday in May. It seems that our close neighbours the Irish Republic have kept a more sensible spread, and Germany seem to have a better approach all round – they seem to have hundreds of holidays! Still, better not let Tony’s Ministry of Mayhem tinker with the dates at the moment, things could get even worse!

Anyway, enough of all this, and on with the show. The Intruders “Every Day Is A Holiday” is appropriate I think. Released as a 45 in 1969 from the 1968 album “Cowboys To Girls”. Funky16Corners featured The Intruders only a couple of weeks ago so that’s my excuse for offering you no background on the Intruders. Besides, I need to go and make the most of this holiday. Now where’s the sunshine?

Buy "The Intruders – Philly Golden Classics"
The Intruders - Every Day Is A Holiday 1969

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


I have been enjoying Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven recently. On his intro page he refers to his day job as being a CEO (of a low rent housing organisation) – a term with distinctly American roots - which initially led me to believe he was American. However, the style of his artist write-ups seemed somewhat familiar, very much like the content found on John Ridley’s page at Yoni’s Soul Of The Net I thought. Then one day recently after a bit more aimless bouncing around on the Net the penny dropped, Sir Shambling IS John Ridley. And he’s based in sunny* Kent, UK. (*or not, at the moment, as it’s decidedly damp).

Finding Yoni’s Soul Of The Net a few years ago, and in particular John Ridley’s page, did a lot to rekindle my passion for soul music and buying vinyl once again. It also opened my eyes to the amount of great Deep Soul that has been recorded and now largely forgotten, but possibly still to be found if you look hard enough. Unfortunately in many cases you need a fat wallet as well. As far as John Ridley is concerned four obvious questions come to mind. Where does he find all this wonderful music? How much more is there still waiting to be (re)discovered? Where does he find the time to document it all? And how large is his overdraft?!

John has recently added Barbara & The Browns to his roster of artist spotlights. He was, I thought, relatively dismissive about today’s featured track (“bit harsh Noddy”). Barbara Brown’s “Watch Dog” was the B side of her final outing on the MGM/Sounds Of Memphis label, the A side being a pleasant if not stunning remake of the Brown’s 1964 hit “Big Party”. Not Deep Soul I suppose, inasmuch as it’s not a ballad, but “Watch Dog” is definitely Southern soul with a capital S and is a heady concoction of soul, funk and r&b.Horns aplenty, choppy guitar, fatback drums, and Barbara and (presumably) the Browns singing their hearts out in a call and response style. Great stuff.

“Watch Dog” was acquired blind back in the 70s during my initial love affair with soul music, and I wasn’t disappointed. My only regret now is that that passion back then was somewhat diluted as my attention was deflected (or, I guess more accurately, shared) by the shock of the new in the form of disco, jazz-funk, punk and roots reggae. (Then later in the 80s and into the 90s music generally seemed to take more of a back seat in favour of life in general). Don’t get me wrong, all these styles of music have given me lasting enjoyment and some great memories. I just sometimes wish I had picked up more gems like Barbara Brown over the years. Of course without the wonderful information sharing medium that is the Internet being around back then I would have been simply oblivious to the existence of many great recordings, and I don’t think for one minute that I could ever have amassed such an impressive collection as John Ridley obviously has. But now with resources such as Deep Soul Heaven available I increasingly seem to be feeling that I’m playing catch up. A case of so much music so little time.

Barbara Brown - Watch Dog 1972

Friday, May 19, 2006

Family affair

Today’s offering is prompted by my previous post that featured Earth, Wind & Fire. (Incidentally, when I selected “Mom” as a featured track I wasn’t aware that it coincided with Mother’s Day weekend in the USA – spooky!). Looking again at the credits on “Last Days And Time” reminded me that Ronald (Ronnie) Laws was the saxophone player on that album, and it was to be the only EWF album he featured on. I say reminded, but I’m not sure whether that fact had ever sunk in before.

Hailing originally from Houston, Texas the family Laws have been musically gifted. Of eight Laws siblings no less than four – Hubert, Eloise, Ronnie and Debra - have been prominent on the music scene. Hubert (second eldest of the eight siblings) was classically trained. The flute is his main instrument and he is still very active on the jazz circuit as both a performer and producer.
Both Eloise and Ronnie (born 1949 and 1950 respectively) started their recording careers in the 70s. Ronnie has been the most commercially successful of the four - probably his most famous track is seemingly all pervasive “Always There” which came from his first album as a solo artist “Pressure Sensitive”. It’s of course a jazz-funk classic and a favourite with many other artists – there are great versions by Willie Bobo, Side Effect, and Incognito to name just three. Ronnie has released over 20 albums in his career (as has Hubert). His initial albums were planted fair and square in the jazz-funk/jazz fusion scene, but by 1980 and the “Every Generation” album, there was a perceptible shift towards a more sophisticated soul-jazz feel, with more vocal tracks featured. Eloise has been less prolific recording wise. A few singles appeared in the early 70s, then a handful of under promoted albums in the period ‘76-‘82. For a while after that music took something of a back seat as she raised a family. In recent years she has made a number of appearances as both singer and actress on stage, and also released two more albums, the most recent being in 2004.

The baby of the four, Debra burst onto the scene in 1981 with the album “Very Special”. Her recording career didn’t really take off from there though, but she continues to make live appearances backing any number of black music luminaries. She has also broken into acting in films and television.

So Laws rule today and you will find three tracks here. Nothing per se from Hubert although he is present on at least one of the tracks here (and undoubtedly his family spirit is present on all). “On My Own” is a glorious piece of sophisticated dance music (sung by Debra, written by Ronnie and with him on sax, produced by Ronnie & Hubert), it’s from Debra’s 1981 album “Very Special”. “Love’s Victory” comes from Ronnie’s 1980 album “Every Generation” (Eloise on background vocal shenanigans - I think, Hubert on flute). It was difficult to pick a track from this album, there isn’t a dud on it, a great mix of uptempo jazz-funk and mellower quiet storm soul-jazz.

Eloise strikes me as having a more independent streak and her early output was produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland so I don’t know of any other Laws family connections on “Love Goes Deeper Than That”. This was included on her first album 1976/7’s “Ain’t It Good Feeling Good” and is hustling slab of disco with a hard edge and Eloise’s vocals shining through.

Bringing the link with my EWF post full circle, Roland Bautista, who was with EWF in the early 70s period that included “Last Days And Time”, is on guitar on “On My Own”, and long time EWF member Larry Dunn appears on both the “Every Generation” and “Very Special” albums. So lots of mutual respect there too methinks.

Buy Family Laws music here.

Debra Laws – On My Own 1981>
Ronnie Laws – Love’s Victory 1980
Eloise Laws – Love Goes Deeper Than That 1977

Saturday, May 13, 2006


You have to have been living on another planet (but not Jupiter) for the last thirty something years if you are not familiar with Earth, Wind & Fire. A giant of a band, their sound is a joyous and irresistible fusion of jazz, funk, soul, gospel, and, at times, a bit of rock too.

In 1975 the “That’s The Way Of The World” album drew me into their orbit, sparked initially by hearing “Shining Star” on the radio. Locked in, I then quickly backtracked to pick up their earlier CBS/Columbia albums including “Last Days And Time” which was released in 1972. Their even earlier Warner Brothers albums weren’t ever on my radar at the time - possibly they never got a UK release - but I’m thinking it’s high time I picked these up too.

Whenever I listen to “Last Days And Time” it transports me to a different place. It did it the first time I put it on the turntable and it still does today, and I don’t really know how to explain why it does this. The album consists of a mix of self penned songs and covers; some tracks are stronger than others; there is a seven minute magnum opus of an instrumental included – “Power”; and it couldn’t be described as a concept album. Yet in my mind the album exists as a perfect entity. Some of EWF’s trademark interludes are present, which can act as a sort of glue, but it’s not that, it’s just that throughout the music has a consistent feel and atmosphere. To me it almost sounds like it was recorded outdoors. “Keep your head to the sky” they would sing on their next album, and as I listen to “Last Days..” I’m aware of the sky above my head, the sun beating down, the dust and sounds of a downtown neighbourhood street corner. A feeling of hope prevails but at the same time, perversely, I detect an undercurrent of melancholy. Hey! I better stop before I start getting emotional on you.

I invariably have to play the whole album straight through as it holds a special place for me, but a combination of limited file space and a certain uneasiness about posting whole albums means I’m posting just the opening and closing track on the album. If you don’t already have “Last Days And Time” in your collection it’s time you did! BUY

If you want to read more about Earth, Wind & Fire you could start at their Wikipedia entry, which also links to other sites and resources including their myspace page. That was where, as I prepared this post, I discovered that EWF are at this moment touring the UK. Perhaps, due to their relatively close proximity (i.e in the same country), some of their mystical powers were at work impelling me to post this (OK, I know, that’s tosh!).

(NOTE: The piccies were taken by me with the digi camera. Hope they come across ok and are not too big).

Earth, Wind & Fire - Time Is On Your Side 1972
Earth, Wind & Fire - Mom 1972

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The sound of sunshine

Dug this one out of the collection the other day. The sun was streaming through the window as I put it on the turntable and it seemed as if the sun was streaming out of the speakers as it played. Was it Monty Python who did a sketch once where words were described by the way they sounded - ’woody’ or ‘tinny’? Well if you cared to describe songs by colour or hue then this one would certainly fall into the ‘bright’ category.

In soul circles Lee Garrett is probably known more for his song writing than performing. He has 77 songs to his name in the BMI database and has co-writing credits on some familiar, and classic, songs – Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, The Spinners “It’s A Shame”, Jermaine Jackson’s “Let’s Get Serious” for example.

Lee’s sporadic recording career possibly started in 1963 with a release on Van Dyk “Linda Sue”. After that he spent some time as a DJ on Philadelphia’s WHAT radio station. In the mid 60s he had a few releases on the Harthon label, including “I Can’t Break The Habit” which is well respected on the Northern scene. From 1968-72 he was once more on the ariwaves on a Detroit station (WGPR?) as the Rockin’ Mr G. This information was gleaned from forum archives of Soulful Detroit, and mostly from regular (it would appear) contributor Bobby Eli the legendary Philly producer/arranger/writer/guitarist. I think I have the chronology right.

In 1976 he released his only(?) album “Heat For The Feets” on Chrysalis. This spawned “You’re My Everything” which was a sizeable hit in the UK pop charts. In 1976 I had just started a mobile disco with some friends and I remember we took ourselves off to the local record shop and bought the majority of the pop top 30 at the time (fodder for the wedding receptions etc.), and “You’re My Everything” was in that first batch. “Heart Be Still” was the follow up single and in my opinion was the better song. I’m not sure if it was also a pop hit, but I dug out some old copies of “Black Music” magazine from 76/early 77 and scanning the UK top 50 soul charts therein couldn’t find it listed at all, which surprised me.

It seems Lee now lives in Portland, Oregon where he appears with local circuit band The Boomer Band.

I can’t track down “Heart Be Still” as being available on CD anywhere at the moment but the original single is fairly common and cheap.

Lee Garrett - Heart Be Still

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Southern Soul floats my boat

I was turned on to Judy White only recently by John Ridley at his excellent page at the equally excellent Soul Of The Net. There he features “Save Me”, a great deep soul song Judy cut in 1969 ably assisted by the Isley Brothers on the T-Neck label. I say this is the first time I became aware of Judy White, but then again maybe not. I present exhibit A…
This is a snippet from a “Soul House” sales list from 1977 (“Soul House” were based in Wakefield UK and are now probably long gone). As you can see the record featured in this post was marked by me with TWO dashes. Normally I marked records I was interested in with a single dash or maybe an asterisk. So did the two dashes mean I had heard the record and desperately wanted it? Don’t know, can’t remember. All I know is I didn’t buy the record then and it was only after hearing “Save Me” at John Ridley’s page about 18 months ago that I started – or possibly restarted – my hunt for Judy White records in earnest. The search was fruitless until a couple of months ago when, within the space of a couple of weeks I finally secured both “Save Me” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed”/”I’ll Cry” for very reasonable sums.
“Save Me” you can hear at John Ridley’s page, and it’s a peach. I’m featuring “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “I’ll Cry” here. A single with both sides as strong as this doesn’t come along too often. Two slabs of gorgeous southern soul recorded in Sheffield, Alabama at Quin Ivey’s Quinvy Studio. I think this is about as good as it can possibly get. No words from me could possibly adequately describe the tracks, you need to listen to them.

I have been unable to find much information on Judy beyond that offered by John Ridley. But here is what I have found.
Judy is the daughter of Josh White. I had never heard of Josh White but reading up on him it appears he was an accomplished and high profile blues guitarist and singer in the 30s. Into the 40s he played alongside jazz artists such as Billie Holiday and played the society circuit and subsequently moved more into the sphere of protest songs and folk music where has was to gain a significant white audience. He was a major draw on the folk circuit in the pre Dylan 60s and also toured Europe (coming to the UK several times) and Scandinavia during the 60s. He died in 1969. (The picture here shows Judy with her Judy's father and brother and sister Beverley).

A review of a video of appearances he made in Sweden in 1967 mentions Judy (more specifically her voice) as being the best reason for watching the video. It also states that she was 19 at the time which would mean she was probably born in 1948 1947. It seems that Judy accompanied her father (together with her brother Josh White Jr) on many stage performances in the 60s as a backing singer.

The Swedish tour must have just predated her recording career at the Buddah label. As John Ridley points out, that started with her appearing as one half of Bongi & Judy. Bongi was Bongi Makeba, daughter of Miriam Makeba. It is likely that Bongi and Judy met in New York in the late fifties. The White family were by that time based in New York and Miriam Makeba made appearances at the Village Vanguard in 1959 and also a guest appearance at Harry Belafonte’s concerts at Carnegie Hall which were also, I believe, attended by Josh White. Bongi Makeba would later die in 1985 following complications in childbirth.

Judy White cut a number of solo singles for Buddah before moving to T-Neck (which was distributed by Buddah) in 1969. Only two singles from her are known on this imprint.

I have only heard snippets of some of her other Buddah output. Based on that I would say that the three songs mentioned here are the standouts - but what standouts! Judy certainly had a fine voice and it seems a shame that she doesn’t appear to have recorded solo beyond her T-Neck outings. On All Music I can only find two references to her – as providing backing vocals on an Archie Shepp album in 1972, and on an album by her brother Josh White Jr. in 1978. It’s possible the death of her father hit her hard. Maybe she also moved onto the folk circuit. Who knows? Wherever life took her the soul music genre ended up the poorer for it.

UPDATE February 2008! Judy is alive and well and living in Georgia USA. She has contacted this blog(see the comments!) and let us know where life took her after her time at T-Neck.

Judy White - Satisfaction Guaranteed 1969?

Judy White - I'll Cry 1969?

You can find both sides of this 45 on the CD "Buddah Deep Soul" (be aware that only a few of the tracks on the CD actually qualify as Deep Soul).

RIP Cal Waymon

Further to my March post on Cal Waymon I am indebted to a friend of Cal's widow for providing some information on him and his family which I have included as an update to the post. Unfortunately Cal passed away in 2003.